Friday, April 16, 2010

Scents that Sing Spring: Top 10 fragrances

There are scented beauties that make you feel ecstatically giddy, projecting happiness from the top of the lungs and filling our hearts with joy. Do they have to be silly too? Not necessarily, even though a little naïveté can be a good thing sometimes; especially when the gripe of the real world becomes too much. Ayala of Smelly Blog organised this latest blog-o-rama in which a fine team of bloggers (listed at the bottom) focuses on scents that put a spring in our step!

In my mind, autumn can be the season for melancholia and serious contemplation, winter needs some comfort injection and richer velours textures while in the summer a cool shot of something lifting the suffocating canopy of the heat is welcome respite, no matter what that is. But a true spring scent should have some unconscious ingenuousness, merely appearing simple and pretty at first sniff, but hiding beneath it a layer of texture that is not immediately attainable.
So my personal Top Spring Scents for this spring (fragrances I am wearing with much gusto and utter glee) are:

Amaranthine Penhaligon's (perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour)
Its name denotes the eternally beautiful and unfading. The perfume, just like the name, evokes a deep purple red, a "corrupted" floral oriental with plenty of "dirty" aspects (see below for another one) combining spiced (clovey) ylang-ylang and jasmine on a milky sandalwood and musky base. Fetish-phobics should better shy away, but those worth their salt in immersing themselves head-long into intimate scents (ooops!) will rejoice that the meadows and the flowers do not only smell of the sterile florist's or Alpine tops. As shocking ~coming from such an upper-stiff-lip British brand~ as discovering that our favourite nanny, Julie Andrews, has a va jay jay ~and a wee hole~ after all!

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nerolia (perfumer Mathilde Laurent)
There is nothing more April-like than the smell of bitter orange trees in blossom, their waxy white petals infiltrating the glossy green of the leaves and some fruit still hanging from the branches, like a reminder of what has been already accomplished. Guerlain captured the ethereal vapors of steam of these delicate, ravishing blossoms and married them to a pre-emptying summery jasmine and the faint whiff of cool frankincense burning inside a Greek Orthodox church preparing for the country's most devout celebration: Easter. Flora Nerolia is like a snapshot of late Lent in Greece and for that reason is absolutely precious to me.

Paco Rabanne Calandre (perfumer Michel Hy)
I recently rediscovered this perfume of the 1970s to much delight. Calandre has a wonderful olfactory profile, as I had written in my full review: "citrusy, slightly sour top note which segues into both oily green hyacinth and a fresh (laundered, thanks to lily-of-the-valley) white rose, elements which peter out slowly into an undefinable vaguely herbal base with honey and light musk touches that is its own thing more than anything that morphs into the wearer" A quiet triumph and a most friendly, easy-going fragrance. (full review here)

L'artisan Parfumeur Jacinthe des Bois (perfumer Anne Flipo)
Jacinthe des Bois was introduced in 2000 as part of L'Artisan's Je T'ai Cueilli Une Fleur trio, which also included Verte Violette and Oeillet Sauvage, all soliflores composed by Anne Flipo (and I love them all). Sadly discontinued, Jacinthe des Bois takes the intoxicating aroma of forest hyacinths, raw and green, like a painting rendered via outrenoir. Like no northern spring has completely lost its thaw, it hides a small facet of lugubriousness that is the necessary part into more fully grasping the real joy of living.

YSL Paris (perfumer Sophia Grojsman for Yves Saint Laurent)
There's something utterly charming about the retro makeup feel of the combination of rose and violets and in Paris this feel is brought to an apotheosis. Paris has the gift ~and curse, if you overdo it~ to be perceptible at a distance, creating a halo that will make waiters swerve on their heels, small children drop their toys to hug you and men exclaiming you smell "clean and feminine". Simply put, a spring fragrance to lose your heart to. (full review here)

Annick Goutal Passion (perfumer Isabelle Doyen)
A typical old Goutal perfume oscillating between modern minimalism and multifaceted classicism, Passion starts with a heady caphoraceous blast of what can only be sensed as vibrant tropical florals snowballing a cadenza of sweet and green notes that unify; to the point where you don't know where the garden ends and the woman starts. The most startling use of ylang-ylang and a joyous romantic fragrance to boot! (full review here)

the little red train in the cobblestone streets of Plaka in Athens,Greece
Lily Bermuda Petals (unknown perfumer for Lily Bermuda)
Petals is feminine, no question about it, and although quite sweet, its tour de force isn't the sugar-tooth of bonbons, but the nectarous quality hiding in the heart of its white blossoms (orange blossom, jasmine, honeysuckle). Its appeal is like that of Natalie Wood at the time she was dating Warren Beatty: Makes you want to break out a prom-like 60s dress and sing in front of the mirror "I feel pretty, oh so pretty; I feel pretty and witty and gay!" , which is rather priceless in its way, won't you agree? (full review here)

Vero Profumo Rubj (perfumer Vero Kern for Vero Profumo)
Sounds odd, smells terrifically happy. The magic of orange blossom absolute in all its glory. Of all the scents in the Vero Profumo line, Rubj impressed me as being the brightest, the shiniest, the most shockingly beautiful in the Eau de Parfum version! Seriously, if you feel like there is a hole in your collection where the heart of a masterpiece fruity floral should beat, don't even think about it twice (full review here for the EDP and here for the parfum)

Ormonde Jayne Tiaré (perfumer Linda Pilkington for Ormonde Jayne)
Tiaré -contrary to expectations due to the name- is reminiscent of a friendlier, more glowing Cristalle by Chanel, which is always an excellent thing. In lieu of a bookish-secretary-in-a-sterile-office which limites its romance-wearing after-hours potential, somehow, someway Ormonde Jayne managed to bypass that and combine both worlds: the intellectual and the sensual, the upbeat and the romantic. A wonderful fragrance that makes you want to run about madly and do recklessly spontaneous things! (full review here)

Une Fleur de Cassie (perfumer Dominique Ropion for Éditions des Parfums Frédéric Malle)
It didn't take me a trip to fragrance capital, Grasse, to appreciate the exquisite technique displayed in highlighting every nook and crany of the mimosa/cassie essences, but it didn't do any harm either. Une Fleur de Cassie has the right amount of "dirty" gusset to hint at coarse carnality (mimosa and cassie absolutes are notoriously musky, jasmine absolute is indolic) while at the same time remaining a gorgeous floral (hints of carnation and rose absolute), smudging its odds and ends into almost an oriental (sandalwood, vanillic fond).

Please check the other participating blogs too:
Smelly Blog
Katie Puckrik Smells
The Non Blonde
I Smell Therefore I Am
Notes from the Ledge
Scent Hive
Savvy Thinker
Roxana's Illuminated Journal
Perfume in Progress
All I Am A Redhead
Ambre Gris
A Rose Beyond the Thames

Picture of Julie Andrews at the mountaintops from The Sound of Music. Picture of Athens, Plaka region street with wisteria vines, via La Vie Bohemie.


  1. Those Aqua Allegorias have a purity of purpose that goes well with spring, though I understand why some people equate the simplicity with "easy summer fragrance." Since I tend to like greens, I picked Herba Fresca as an AA in my spring list. Bracing burst, that. I do like the Nerolia, though; uplifting and refreshing.

    I'm making the acquaintance of Calandre. It's got that metal vibe thing going that makes you kind of re-approach it a few times. First time I tried it, the answer was "probably not." It's growing on me, now that I found a way around the edge and into the "oily green hyacinth" you mention.

    I am simply turning away from the Jacinthe des Bois. Not fair. ;) Really, though, it sounds lovely; I'm glad you've got it in your armory.

    You know, I'll never get a list right, no matter what the parameters for the round up, or how hard I think. But it is fun, especially once I let go of making a "permanently correct" something and treat it as a snapshot. Thank you so much for a view of what "sings spring" for you. :)

  2. ::applause::

    Now I need to sniff some of these...

  3. What a wonderful and varied list!

    My nemesis: Amaranthine (!! gags)

    Note to self: need to try AA Flora Nerolia. Love orange blossom and love M. Laurent

    Wholeheartedly agrees: OJ Tiare. This is my favorite OJ by a mile. It is so beautiful it shocks me. I catch myself sniffing and thinking "this is so good!" throughout the day. =)

  4. Oh thank you for your Amaranthine description- HILARIOUS. And, makes me want to try it right now. However, I'm wearing Une Fleur de Cassie right now, which I'm wondering how I ever lived without. One of my absolute favorites. It's going to the desert island with me.

  5. Anonymous18:34

    Dear E,

    Nothing specific comes to mind although I do second the AA Herba Fresca opinion. This is has never been a good fragrance for me but it definitely does shine in the spring on others. The still cool weather of our clime highlights the perfume's bitter herbs and green leaves and plays down the heady (dare I say cloying) flowers.

    As for my spring scent, I am still looking for it. Spring invariably makes me think Easter and the smell of Easter is the smell of the sprigs of boxwood decorating the heaving table at Easter breakfast. There is no other smell in the world like boxwood and I think it is beautiful. Fresh, musty, urinuous all at the same time. Perfect; now if someone would just bottle it.


  6. I almost added Une fleur de Cassie to my list because I just discovered this (I smelled it before but realized now I love it) but since I don't wear it (I only have a sample), I am really glad it's on your list. :)

  7. I'd love to smell all the scents you describe, but many of them are unavailable where I live, Barcelona.

    I like very much that you've included Calandre. It's one of my favourite scents of all time (along with Chanel 19, Caleche and Chamade)although it's getting more and more difficult to find.

  8. I like Annick Goutal's Passion but for me the absolute essence of Spring is their Le Chevrefeuille. It smells like the whole honeysuckle vine.

    I also have a hard time finding less mainstream scents in Denmark, I am hoping that I can find samples on swap of the Tiare, Amaranthine and Un Fleur de Cassie but I have a feeling this top 10 will be on everyones wishlist now!
    Thanks for another great post (I am trying not to be such a lurker),

  9. Zazie10:12

    Oh, your list is great, though I haven't tried all of the scents. Une Fleur de Cassie and Tiarè would make it on top of my spring list too: I find both perfumes amazing and gorgeous!!! I am also enjoying very much these days Carnal Flower, tuberose Gardenia and Ninfeo mio: I had some doubts on the latter, but I am really loving it now!!!

  10. I loved Une Fleur de Cassie for quite awhile but have had to put it away for now - my somewhat incontinent father has come to live with us and I'm kinda over anything that has a urine or sweat note in it right now (no offense meant to my father but extreme old age has some olfactory associations).

    I'm rushing towards very clear, green scents right now. Your list, though, has some interesting things I haven't tried!


  11. I got here through another blog and I was quite -pleasantly- surprised to find another Greek! Γεια σου λοιπόν! I will have a look around your blog since I found it quite interesting I've not smelled some of the perfumes you mentioned. The only one I will not dare go near is Amaranthine. My skin completely disagrees with Penhaligon's perfumes. The first few minutes they smell quite nice and 30 minutes later they smell horrible, nothing like what they did 3-4 minutes earlier! And the smell is resistant to scrubbing.

  12. Oh dear I read and haven't commented on this- what I was going to say and thought I had said was I am glad you have found a Penhaligon's you like as I'm very fond of them- my Pa has been wearing their scents for years so am biased.

    I forgot Tiare- I guess I think of it for summer but you are quite right it would be lovely in Spring.

    Looking forward to hearing more about Grasse

  13. Mystic Knot06:39

    So weird - I just tested a Une Fleur de Cassie which is so wonderful and delicate but lasting.

    Of course Passion is one I love !

    And I got a lovely 15 ml bottle of Rubj extrait - it's glorious.

    A great list Helg !

  14. Yes! Love seeing Paris on a spring scent list! And Une Fleur de Cassie is a great selection, too.

    Tiare hit me the same way, too: a more accessible Cristalle.

  15. Anonymous11:17

    One of my favorite signs of spring is a lilac in bloom. Therefore I would add to your list Ineke's lovely After My Own Heart. "Sweet fruity (bergamot and raspberry) and crisp green notes lead into the heart of lilac. The base features sandalwood, heliotrope, and musk." Despite the other notes it is basically a fresh, lovely, and quite realistic-smelling lilac soliflore. Good longevity.


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